In a couple of weeks I'm teaching our confirmation class of 8th~9th graders, and the title of this post is the topic I've been handed.
In my own particular church, there is virtually nothing that an individual cannot do to make a contribution to the community, church and wider world both, beyond being ordained as an elder or deacon, that requires membership. We nurture our lay leaders, members or not, elders and/or deacons or not, and all are invited, in some form or another, to participate in worship, to serve on ministry committees, to care for others, to engage in church leadership roles, to serve the community at large ~ to contribute time, money, energy, and skills. And we extend ourselves to one another, regardless of membership status.
No one in my immediate family but me is a member of my church, but that fact did not limit anyone's ~ pastors, staff, choir, deacons ~ involvement when Josh died. And I'm not at all sure that my own membership status was the lynchpin. When I asked how another family had ended up at our church for a child's funeral, what I heard was that they had gotten to know our pastors and had heard that our church is one that knows how to do the funerals of young people.
One of my friends, my age, recently posted on FB that our church is the foundation of her life in community, the place where her closest friends gather. She got several responses to the effect that others find the kind of closeness and support that she was extolling in other kinds of communities. She continued to defend church as a unique set of relational engagements, but the fact is ~ most people these days are content with other kinds of communities. So why become a church member?
It's true that a lot of churches are more exclusivist than mine in terms of who can do what. I suppose that might be a reason to join ~ although I can't say that it would be a drawing card for me.
During my few sojourns in Methodist Sunday School as a child, I learned the little poem with hands and fingers: Here's the church, here's the steeple, open the door, and . . .
The thing is, today the people are elsewhere.
I have of course, many other opinions on this matter, but I'm interested in yours:
Why become a church member?
Imagine that young teenager and her friends in the back of your van as you drive them to soccer practice, and that's the question they're discussing. What would you offer them?
Image of future pastor here.